Saturday, December 10, 2016

Virginia Lake Osprey

 With all the rare bird sightings of late, it is a shame I have none of them to showcase here. Sometimes, you end up in the right place at just the right moment. Sometimes, it is luck and sometimes it is a result of smart birding.
 This encounter with an Osprey at Virginia Lake was luck! It is common to see this species feeding in the area, but it is not so common to have one come so close.
 This Osprey was on a mission to catch a fish to take back to its nest. While it kept its eye on me during its fishing expedition, it never waivered from its purpose for being there. Just because I was standing close to the fish didn't matter.
 It searched and searched, sometimes seeing something of interest but opted to keep searching.
 It flew back and forth in front of me.
 At times it would move closer to the water, then rise again. I wondered if the fish could see its shadow and if the Osprey knew that.
 Aside: I looked this bird over closely to see if it was hosting one of the tracking devises attached to several local Osprey this summer. This one was not.
 It was easy to tell when it was setting up for a dive. Its feet dropped as it swooped toward the water.
 When with an enormous amount of speed and force, it plunged into the water grabbing the fish in the instant of impact. It is such an amazing spectacle.
 In no time, it lifts up out of the water with a small trout clutched in its grip.
Successful, the Osprey then heads directly for its next. It is possible this is one of the birds nesting at Snow's Lane. There were two young Osprey reared there again this year.

Monday, November 28, 2016

TWO Brant

 Having to go to Holyrood last Sunday, I made a detour to Kelligrews. As I drove in Pond Road, I was surprised to see the two visiting pale-bellied Brant grazing next to the road.
 It was actually a little surprising as this species is known to prefer seaside delicacies over pond side fare.
 It was also surprising to see how tame these two birds are. Since the area is a bustling duck pond, these birds may have become a little lazy as there are regular deliveries of seed and bread offered at this location.
 Word has it that the Brant have not been seen over the last couple of days. Did they fatten up and take off? Did they land on someone's dinner table? Have they found a new home in the surrounding area? There was one spotted in recent years in Chamberlain's Pond. It is possible these two Brant have just moved around the area.
Whatever the outcome, it was a treat to be able to see two Brant together. and just in the nick of time.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Nevermind the rain: Just Bird

 It just felt like a birding day. Yes, there was rain in the forecast, but the temp was high and the winds were low. I just had to give it a try. First stop: Ball field. Just as I pulled up there in the early morning, the Great Egret made a quick fly over. It was headed for the ball field, but turned around and went back up Virginia River. Second Stop: The Legion. There, I saw the resident Prairie Warbler, but also caught sight of another bird.  After 30 minutes of following it, nearly walking in the river in the process, out popped this bright Yellow-breasted Chat.  I was surprised, because all I had seen of it was the dark, top body. The yellow was brilliant. I also think I saw another small bird, but I could not get a look at it at all.

Third Stop: Quidi Vidi Lake. Warm and relaxed, I headed around the lake. There were no birds whatsoever until I reached the last bend before the end of the East End. Several sparrows were flying around the low growth. Then, something quite greenish looking bolted. I raised my camera and was able to capture this second YB Chat. I was really surprised. So enthralled was I with this development, I failed to notice the big storm moving in. I hurried to the gazebo to take cover from the pouring rain and lightening.  As the storm got closer, I shut off all of my electronics and waited the storm out. Once the sky cleared I headed back to "the spot." Not one single bird showed itself.

 Dripping wet, I headed to my car.  I took one more look around the Legion greenery.
 While scanning the area, my eye landed on the Great Egret sitting on a rooftop. Please forgive the excessive number of photos, but I am not used to seeing this profile on our skyline.

 When the egret flew off, it headed back toward Virginia River. It was nice to talk with some walkers who were just as excited about seeing this bird as I was. It never gets old.

I checked out a few more places before heading home to dry off. Later in the afternoon, I checked Kelly's Brook and Rennie's River. The last shot in this series is of a small bird I saw at the brook. It was with kinglets and may very well be a kinglet. However, it looks too yellow. This one remains a puzzle.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


 As if identifying shorebirds were not challenging enough, throw in an aberration or two, and it is downright confounding. I spent a lot of time staring at this bird on the St. Shott's Beach.
 The bird seemed to have all the markings of a Least Sandpiper, but I could see no yellow legs. I kept taking photos and checking them over and over. Sometimes light plays big tricks on beaches.
 No matter what, I could not turn these black legs yellow. Yes, this is a Least Sandpiper with black legs! Images were taken in August.
 This image of a Least with the proper yellow legs was photographed at Bear Cove Beach.  These shots were taken in September. Time really does make a difference as the shorebirds are making a continuous transition into winter plumage.
 Also at this beach were several Semipalmated Sandpipers. Their legs looked yellowish. This is not that uncommon, and in this case, I think the color was affected by the color of the surroundings.
As confused as I often am when looking at shorebirds, I have made progress. I do spend time looking at the color of the legs, the shape of the feet, the length and shape of the beak, length of tail and wings, underarm color, rump color and overall size and shape. Despite all this as well as studying the coloring of the bird, I am often left shaking my head. Is it any wonder when I come across a Least Sandpiper with black legs?

Head First

 This Greater Yellowlegs is still hanging around at Virginia Lake. In the early morning hours it was feeding feverishly, showing more urgency than in the summer months. Perhaps, it is fattening up for an upcoming journey.
Extremely apt, it grabbed this  little stickleback-like fish on its first attempt. The fish did not go easily.
 A futile struggle ensued.
 Adept, the Yellowlegs continued to manage its meal until it was turned in just the right direction for swallowing.
 Birds ingest fish head first to prevent the fins from opening up on the way down. Head first means smooth sailing down the throat.
Mission accomplished!

This Prairie Warbler

 I assume the Prairie Warbler I saw several times this week is the same one reported near the Legion in St. John's more than two weeks ago. If so, it is staying around a long time, perhaps enjoying the warm weather and ample food supply.
 Not all glimpses of this bird were at the same time, nor at the same angle. On one occasion this was the look I got.  The sighting was brief and distant. Taking away three sad photos, it looked like the undertail coverts were yellow. For a while I thought I had a different bird. With help, the ID is confirmed: Prairie Warbler in weird light only making the coverts look yellow.
At another time, I got this quick look. This bird flew in front of me and landed on a nearby branch. It looked extremely green. Again, snapping what I could, I got this shot. Clearly the coverts are white like the Prairie, but I could not see the wing bars. Again, I thought it might be a different bird. Three different views; three different shots all added up to be the same bird. Imagine I only had my mind's eye to review. I'm sure I would easily have thought I saw three different birds. Oh, so much to learn.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Canada's New National Bird: The Gray Jay

 The Royal Canadian Geographical Society just named the Gray Jay as Canada's National Bird. Now, this was not by popular vote as the Common Loon, Snowy Owl and Canada Goose all received more votes. Hmmm, where have we heard that before? Perhaps there was an electoral college involved.
The justifications cited for the selection of the "Whiskey Jack"  were mostly related to the prevalence and nature of this species.
 Anyone who has spent any time around the Gray Jay knows this bird is particularly social and friendly. That, perhaps, is due to its appetite for human food. Toss out anything and the bird will fly in. It will circle picnic tables waiting for a handout. It also has been known to land on a person's hand or shoulder to encourage more food donations.
 Is that smart or just instinctive? I have seen numerous other species do this as well. 

 In addition to its friendly and "smart" nature, the bird was also selected because of its presence in all Canadian provinces and territories..
 And..... it is hardy enough to stick around all year thriving in the cold, winter environment.
 There is a hardiness and surviving nature about his species. That, I think, is quite Canadian. While this species did not win my vote, I have no objection to its selection.
The next time I see a Gray Jay on my birding outings, I will watch it more carefully and maybe, even see it more differently.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Nearly Missed Forster's Tern

 Seeing a new bird never gets old. On the day this Forster's Tern was found, I had chosen to bird another area. I really figured I had missed this brid.
 On the off chance it might still be around, I drove to Renews the next day. Even then, if it were not for Ed Hayden, I still would have missed it. I was looking in all the wrong places.

 When I finally found it, I saw it very well. In fact, it flew so close to me I could have reached out and touched it. It put on an entertaining display of fishing and playing with its food. It tossed this little fish in the air and caught it again mid-flight. Thanks to Bruce M. for reporting this bird.
 Of course, you can't go to Renews without birding other areas. While checking the roadside near Bear Cove Beach, I came across this lingering Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Also on Bear Cove Pt. Road, I am pretty sure I saw an Ovenbird. I flushed it as I drove up the road, but could not relocate it to verify. It was the ONLY bird on the road.
Recently, I came across the lingering Black and White Warbler. It won't be long before he regrets it, I'm sure.